Senate to push $1T bipartisan infrastructure bill to passage

Michele Nellenbach, Bipartisan Policy Center Vice President of Strategic Initiatives, joins Yahoo Finance to the bipartisan infrastructure bill and the upcoming expiration of the eviction moratorium.

Video Transcript

KRISTIN MYERS: I want to bring in Michelle Nellenbach. She's Bipartisan Policy Center's vice president of strategic initiatives. Michelle, great to have you here with us. So this package, while it is still pretty large, is still somewhat of a big step back from what Democrats had originally wanted. We have heard Congresswoman AOC coming out and being a little bit critical about how much Democrats are giving up in this package. Are there any concerns for you about some of the things that might be missing from this deal, the things that ended up on the chopping block?

MICHELLE NELLENBACH: No, I think, you know, the president had proposed two very large packages. One of them was, quote unquote, "infrastructure," and it serves as the basis of this agreement. And then there was another package that was more towards social infrastructure, if you will. So that was college and health care and those types of things.

So in the infrastructure package, it is really roads, bridges, water systems, broadband, energy. It is those things that we have traditionally called infrastructure. It does not include paid leave and child care facilities and housing, which were in the president's proposal, but those are likely to come up in the reconciliation package. So I think in terms of the infrastructure package, they've covered the issues that really need to be in that bill.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: You brought up reconciliation, great point because it could be a sticking point for members of the House. We know this bill will now go to the House soon. And already, Nancy Pelosi is saying, we're not going to take up that bill unless reconciliation is dealt with. So what are your feelings on how this might all play out in the House?

MICHELLE NELLENBACH: Well, I think we're going to need the president. And he has come in and told-- and spoken to the Democrats, as I understand it, and said, you know, this is a bipartisan deal. It's probably as good as we're going to get, in terms of infrastructure. So hopefully he can weigh in more strongly with the House, and they will let this come up for a vote.

I mean, we've all known all along that there kind of has to be a dual track because reconciliation and the issues that will be addressed in that bill are a huge priority for the president and the Democrats, who obviously control both chambers. But at the same time, the president very much wants a bipartisan win on infrastructure. So Leader Pelosi and Schumer are just going to have to figure out how to manage those two. And I think as long as they can assure the progressives that there will be a vote on reconciliation, the infrastructure-backed package should be OK.

KRISTIN MYERS: Now, Michelle, I do want to ask you, you know, about that-- I guess what so many folks have been calling that human infrastructure bill, right? You know, as you were mentioning, the infrastructure package really being about roads and bridges and communication services and the railways. But that human infrastructure package, which Democrats have-- and progressives, particularly-- have been so vocal about, being about some of those tax credits in order to take care of children and aging and elderly parents, that has been an area that has been a huge sticking point between Democrats and Republicans, not wanting to spend as much on some of these issues, and also even on issues like climate change. I'm curious to know where you see us going forward, at least on that point-- on those points of that human infrastructure bill, which so many Americans do say they support?

MICHELLE NELLENBACH: Well, that's a good point. So BPC has long-standing positions-- we support doing more on paid leave and child care and housing and a lot of those other issues, but we don't think reconciliation is the right way to do it. So throughout-- and traditionally, that-- policies that stand the test of time are bipartisan. Both sides have buy-in. Most recent history, though, both parties have used reconciliation to pass partisan priorities, so the tax cuts in the Trump administration, the ACA under the Obama administration, and now this. And so our preference would be that they use regular order.

In our outreach to the Hill, we have found Republicans willing to talk about child care, willing to talk about paid leave, on board with more housing assistance. So we do think you can get bipartisan agreement around some of those. It's going to take more work. And so that's the process we wish they would go forward through. They're opting for reconciliation. I suspect they have the votes in the House. We don't know if they have the votes in the Senate to do reconciliation. So we'll see if that-- if they can get through that way. If they can't, we hope they go back to a bipartisan process and engage with those Republicans who are willing to have that conversation.

ALEXIS CHRISTOFOROUS: Michelle, I want to switch our chat for a minute and talk about this nationwide eviction moratorium having expired and now lawmakers out for the August recess. We saw at least one lawmaker camp out overnight in protest on Capitol Hill saying that, you know, this was not the way it should have gone, that this is not going to provide relief for about 3.6 million people who now face possibly being pushed out of their homes. We know that this moratorium was put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic. But as we know, we're far from being done with this pandemic. What do you think is next, and what recourse might some of these affected Americans have?

MICHELLE NELLENBACH: Well, I honestly don't know what recourse they have. I hope-- hopefully Congress or the administration can step in and do something. We have called for one more extension of the moratorium just to get through the next few months, particularly with the Delta variant surging. We know that a lot of those folks are going to be particularly hard hit. They're still struggling for jobs and such.

And so you know, the administration has said there is a Supreme Court decision that said they cannot move forward, so I think Congress will probably have to take it up. And whether that's something they can tack onto the infrastructure bill, perhaps that's the best vehicle going forward. But in the meantime, it has expired, and so we're just going to have to do what we can to help those individuals through other programs, other assistance. We have sent a lot of money out to the states through the most-- the last CARES and COVID relief packages, so perhaps, there's things that governors and mayors can do to help those folks in the interim.

KRISTIN MYERS: And of course, hopefully we can avoid what some critics of ending this moratorium are calling-- or are going to say is going to be a spike in homelessness across cities and states. Michelle Nellenbach, Bipartisan Policy Center's vice president of strategic initiatives, thanks so much for joining us today.

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